I Wanna Get All Agent Orange on Some Plants

I have a problem with brush and weeds growing around my place. I’ve tried everything from herbicides to covering the ground with plastic, to pulling them, and nothing seems to do a very good job. If I’m lucky, it’ll stay gone for about a year, but usually, (if the stuff has any effect on it at all), it’ll only last a couple of weeks. I’m tired of this. I want the stuff dead, and I don’t want no stinkin’ zombi plants showing up later on. I’m not even concerned if harms the rest of the lawn (provided, of course, it doesn’t kill all of it), I just want the stuff gone for good (or at least so I don’t have to deal with it every year).

About the only thing I haven’t tried, is dumping large amounts of salt, which I’m not sure how well that would work, or how much it would take. So, will salt do the trick (and how much would I need per square foot)? If it won’t work, what will? (And, yes, I’ve tried gallons of Roundup, to no avail.)

Petrol?
Flamethrower?

Seriously, do you know what sort of brush / weeds we’re talking about there?
Specific herbicides may be better than glyphosate.

Petrol’s not a good solution because it’ll screw up the water table something fierce, and a flamethrower won’t work since most of the stuff is right up against the house.

As for the types of brush/weeds, it’s all kinds, from “sticker bushes” (think of a rose bush, without any blossoms), seedlings, wild carrot, to flowering plants planted by the previous owner. I’ve tried several different kinds of herbicides, everything from specific types to broad types, and none of them have been very effective.

You need to stop the wild carrot from flowering if herbicides aren’t doing anything. If you can stop the flowers from dropping seeds you should be on your way to eradicating it. This is going to be a laborious process as you may need to remove each flower head before it puts out the flowers. Don’t composte the heads, put them in a plastic bag and put them in the rubbish. Herbicides will probably kill off the visible plants but the seeds in the soil will come up until they are all gone.

As far as the sticker bushes go (and I’m not entirely sure what they are), you may need to resort to burning them and then using a herbicide as new growth appears. I know that’s drastic, but from what I’ve read of “sticker bushes” they seem to be related to blackberry and burning then herbiciding the new canes seems to be effective. If you can’t burn them as they’re too close to the house, you may need to cut them down then herbicide the new growth.

The basics of stopping plants coming back are to interfere with the regeneration cycle. Getting rid of the flowers will stop seeds spreading and cutting the thing to the ground and herbiciding the new growth should go a long way. This is not a quick fix though and may take a few years to disrupt the cycle enough times to stop them growing.

Another possibility is to outcompete the plants you don’t want with plants you do want. Plants that cast a lots of shade (even shrubs) may interupt the cycle of the unwanted plants as they can’t get a foothold in without enough light.

There will be others who can provide better suggestions to me, especially if they’re local.

My dad used a combination of rock salt and propane to kill the most stubborn weeds in our yard and driveway. A child’s-fist-sized pile around the base of the plant works wonders. I’m talking about calcium chloride, here, by the way, in the large 1/2cm granules used for salting driveways and roads. The pile at the base of the plant will be dissolved by rain and will attack the roots of the plants directly; the flip side is that it will create a dead spot in your yard in which nothing will grow for quite a while.

After it rains a few times, you’ll notice the enemy beginning to turn brown and dry up. Use a propane torch (very hot, very focused flame) on the lowest brown stem you can find - the goal is to hasten the plant’s natural withering and prevent it from forming or spreading any more seeds. Dad just waits until the plant is completely dried and brown – doesn’t take long in the summer – and roasts the whole thing. Since it’s right next to the house, you may forego this step, but you’ll still need to get rid of the dead plants in a way that will keep them from becoming compost.

Running a nice long line of rock salt along the foundation of your house should help clear things out nicely. Like I said, nothing will grow there for quite some time, but the effect will be very localized.

Killing the plants is really only a temporary solution, even with salt or whatever - what you really need is to make sure you don’t get new ones. Evergreen shrubs and heavy mulch will help, once you’ve done something about the weeds. Nature abhors a vacuum and will fill it, one way or another.

I remember an argument about whether Rome really salted the fields of Carthage, and someone cited a study that it takes a little over twenty tons of rock salt per acre to kill land so that nothing will grow there for a practical forever. That translates to a little over a pound of rock salt per square foot. While I can say that works just fine on lawns and most domestic plants cough, many weeds are salt-resistant so I’d add a little more above that, say maybe a pound and a quarter or so.

Shade does not kill thorny vines such as blackberry. This is the well stuck voice of experience speaking. I have been pulling them out (including as much root as I can get) for three years in this house and they are back every year. Do not tempt me to use fire, as my husband doesn’t trust me with it.

Picloram (Tordon) is traditionally the utility companies’ choice for clearing brush from their rights-of-way. However, it’s potentially more nasty than household-use herbicides.

One way I’ve heard (I can’t vouch for it) of getting more effect against woody plants is to drill a hole near the base and pour the herbicide into it, so more of it goes directly into the system.

Keep in mind that killing tough plants isn’t a one-time thing. You not only need multiple applications, you’ll probably need to do it over multiple years, making sure to get every leaf, every seedling and every offshoot as soon as you see them.